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Stress and Cognitive Decline: What You Need to Know.


Memories are precious. Don't lose them because of stress.


Yesterday was Memorial Day and our minds were in gratitude for those who have fought for our way of life today. This instantly reminded me of a study I encountered that explored the long-term effects of stress on the brain health of veterans. The study categorized stress as PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), traumatic brain injuries, and subsequent depression. What they found was that stress was breaking down the important part of our brain that is responsible for memory. The stressed brain also leads to depression which exacerbates the problem.


Depression is often seen in veterans and as they age, its very common to see dementia set in after 65. Studies show that among veterans 55 years and older, those who struggle with depression were more likely to develop dementia than those with no depression over a 7 year follow up. Because of this "depression to dementia" connection, researchers decided to take a closer look at what could be going on. (Resource 1)


One potential cause is the increase in glucocorticoids, specifically cortisol, which is triggered by stress. Unfortunately, elevated cortisol levels can begin to break down the hippocampus, our memory and learning center, leading to atrophy and even Alzheimer's Dementia.


Research has continued to explore the link between stress and hippocampal atrophy in the general population as well.


“Alternation in hippocampal networks has been reported in chronic stress” – Resource 2
“Atrophy of hippocampal region in brains is one of the most consistent features of AD. It is the earliest brain region and is most severely affected. “ – Resource 2

In fact, many of my practice members share a similar concern about getting dementia. They are noticing that their thinking isn’t as clear as it used to be; causing a decline in focus, productivity, and recall. There a a few common denominators in each person's story, but the one that sticks out the most is STRESS.


We can't live a "stress free" life, but we can certainly start changing our relationship to stress and making small tweaks to protect our health along the way.


This is why it’s important to not only learn about stress management practices, but to actually put those practices into ACTION.


The brain is a pretty important organ and we must be mindful about how our lifestyle may be impacting its longevity.


Here’s a quick example of this.


When you are really stressed, do you find yourself mixing up words, having a harder time forming a sentence, or finding it difficult to come up with a solution to a problem. It isn’t until you step away for a moment or literally stop to breath and calm down that you’re then able to mentally function better. That’s because the “fight or flight” response is shutting down the higher critical thinking parts of our brain and impacting the signals of your hippocampus. You’re stuck in survival mode: “survive first and logically think through things later.”


This is great in a moment, but living day after day with chronically high stress comes with its consequences.

 

So now that I have your attention, I hope you are seeing how important it is to manage your stress as it relates to the health of your brain.


Here’s the good news! There is a wonderful nutrient that helps to restore and protect the hippocampus from atrophy.


Phosphatidyl Serine.

High levels of this fatty substance, also know as a phospholipid, is found in the hippocampus and  has ben shown to help protect nerve cells and nerve communications.


DHA

This is a fatty acid that helps to protect the nerves by decreasing inflammation. When combined with phosphatidyl serine, research is showing a synergistic effect between each nutrient and its positive impact on the brain.


Lifestyle Modifications:

While alcohol may help you to relax in the moment, it does negatively impact the health of the brain.


Exercise improves circulation to the brain, thus helping deliver oxygen and nutrients to the tissue. It also helps to reduce stress overall. Of course, if you push yourself too hard, as in the case of overtraining, this can have the opposite effect. Bottom line is that exercise is a wonderful way to keep your entire body healthy, just don’t go pedal to the metal in every workout session.


Keeping Stress in Check

If you do find that you are overwhelmed and stressed to the max, don’t hesitate to seek help. Because so many people are struggling with high pressure lives, Dr. Lexi has put together a step-by-step process to tackle your biggest stressors one by one in a very do-able way. To learn more schedule a discovery call today or check out her stress management course at


Don’t let the pressures of life steal your memories. Remeber, it’s not about living a “stress-free” life. It’s about learning how to adapt and self-regulate.


Energetically,


Dr. Lexi

 

Resource:

  1. Trauma Spectrum Disorder and Health Behavior Open Access

Depression and dementias among military veterans

First published: 01 June 2014 

Citations: 17

 


2. Anand KS, Dhikav V. Hippocampus in health and disease: An overview. Ann Indian Acad Neurol. 2012 Oct;15(4):239-46. doi: 10.4103/0972-2327.104323. PMID: 23349586; PMCID: PMC3548359.

 

3. Kim HY, Huang BX, Spector AA. Phosphatidylserine in the brain: metabolism and function. Prog Lipid Res. 2014 Oct;56:1-18. doi: 10.1016/j.plipres.2014.06.002. Epub 2014 Jun 30. PMID: 24992464; PMCID: PMC4258547.

 

 

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